Notable Additions: N/A
Notable Losses: C. Joe Looney (Free Agency/Retirement)
Projected Starters: LT. Tyron Smith LG. Connor Williams C. Tyler Biadasz RG. Zach Martin RT. La’el Collins
Last Year: 2020 PFF Grades – Smith (67.8), Williams (70.8), Biadasz (53.5), Martin (91.3), Collins (N/A)
It was not that long ago that the Cowboys offensive line was heralded as one of the premier O-lines in the NFL. However, former center Travis Frederick’s shocking retirement last offseason and a slew of injuries during the year caused the Cowboys O-line to go from elite too bad in just one season. The Dak injury really hurt but the loss of both tackles for most of the year was the nail in the coffin for the 2020 Dallas offense. PFF ranked the Cowboys offensive line 27th which was their worst ranking since most of the guys on it were drafted. Poor run and pass blocking contributed to that 27th ranking. The Cowboys on paper were middle of the pack in pressure rate and pocket time but that does not tell the full story. Terence Steele and Brandon Knight started most of the season for the Cowboys at the tackle positions as Collins never played and Smith only played in two games. It would not be a stretch to call Knight and Steele the worst tackle tandem in the NFL for 2020. Their inability to protect the QB forced a Cowboys offense that started the season as one of the elite passing attacks in the NFL to convert to a ground based, quick passing offense to work around the line limitations. Regardless of what the numbers say, the Cowboys coaching staff never had any faith that in obvious passing scenarios they could count on their tackles to hold up very long. The sudden retirement of Frederick also did not help matters as the center position was left decimated regardless of who was out there. Both Joe Looney and rookie Biadasz struggled to replace Frederick. The guard position was the one bright spot for this Cowboys O-Line. Zach Martin was spectacular all year as always and was even forced to play some RT. Conner Williams had the best year of his career and went from a guy who some questioned whether he would be on the team beyond 2020 to a guy that warrants extension consideration.
If one wanted to place a bet on a team to be most improved O-Line, a safe bet would be the Cowboys. They can show significant improvement from the starters staying healthy alone. Tyron Smith is back at LT and is sporting a slimmer physique in hopes to stay healthy this season. When healthy, Smith is an elite LT whose career should one day garner hall of fame consideration. Collins is expected to be healthy and ready to return at RT. He had a career year in 2019 but prior to that had never quite played up to that level. Coming off a season where he missed the entire year, realistic expectations are probably that Collins plays at a level below his career year. However, anything he gives should be a significant upgrade over Steele. Williams and Martin return at their guard spots and the Cowboys are hopeful that Williams can kick it up another gear and really become a high-level starter by putting together back-to-back quality seasons. If Martin is healthy there is nothing to discuss as he has made the pro-bowl every year of his career and should be a hall of famer when he is done. The question with the Cowboys offensive line is the center position. The second-year man Biadasz enters this season as the projected starter and Dallas is hoping for some year two improvement. Overall, expect the Cowboys O-line to have a bounce back season if they can stay healthy.
New York Giants
Notable Additions: Billy Price (trade)
Notable Losses: G. Kevin Zeitler (Free Agency), T. Cameron Fleming (Free Agency)
Projected Starters: LT. Andrew Thomas LG. Shane Lemieux C. Nick Gates RG. Will Hernandez RT. Matt Peart
Last Year: 2020 PFF Grades – Thomas (62.4), Lemieux (32.2), Gates (59.7), Hernandez (58.1), Peart (69.7)
After years of poor O-line play it finally looked like the Giants had turned the corner in 2019 as they were a respectable group that season. However, 2020 saw the Giants revert to being one of worst O-lines in the NFL. A lot went wrong for the Giants up front last season. They selected Thomas as the first offensive lineman of a stellar offensive line draft to be their LT, and he turned out to be one of the few that did not play well last season. Solder, who is no longer that good to begin with, opted out due to covid 19 leaving Cameron Fleming, who is worse, to take over as the starter at RT. The Fleming Thomas tandem was one of the worst tackle duos in the NFL. Hernandez forgot how to pass block after two good seasons prior and Lemieux was even worse once he was forced to take over after Hernandez got Covid 19. Zeitler was the Giants best lineman last season, but his play still was not up to par with what he had done in past years. Gates got the nod as the starting center, a position he had never played before. Considering that he was undrafted free agent back in 2018 who played his entire college career and most of his pro career prior to 2020 as a tackle, he was not completely useless. Gates was far from good, but he was the least of their problems. All these issues contributed to the Giants finishing 31st in pressure rate and allowing the second most sacks of any team. The Giants were able to get it together run blocking later in the season after a poor start in that area to finish as a respectable rushing team despite losing Saquon Barkley in week 2.
The Giants seemingly have nowhere to go but up in 2021 up front. However, on paper this group could be worse than last year without improvement from at least one of the three second year players they have starting. If this group is to make any significant improvement, it starts with their LT. Thomas needs to play up to the level of some of his draft mates like Tristan Wirfs, Mechai Beckton, or Wills Jr. They all were drafted after him and all played significantly better in year one. A bad rookie year certainly does not mean a player cannot eventually become a very good player in the NFL, but the problem is the Giants have enough talent on defense and the skill positions to be a playoff team. Not to mention the third year QB who they also need to improve this year. The Giants need this offensive line to get better quickly to help them accomplish their goals of reaching the playoffs and helping Daniel Jones improve as a QB. They do not have time to wait on Thomas when the rest of the group lacks the natural talent he has so it starts with him. Either Peart or Solder will start at the other tackle. While Peart is listed there now, I would not count out Solder yet. Peart was not very good in the little action he got last season and Solder, though not the player he used to be, could have really benefited from the year off after opting out due to Covid 19. The guard play could be a huge concern. Hernandez looked like he would be a legitimate starter in this league after his first two seasons, but his play fell off last season. They need a bounce back year from him. Lemieux was a rookie picked in the fifth-round last season and played like it. It is possible that he simply was overwhelmed and can play better after a year under his belt, but it is also possible he is simply not that good. The Giants also recently traded for Billy Price. The former first round pick has had an underwhelming career up to this point, but he has also been injury riddled. Worst case scenario he adds much needed depth to their interior because he can play C and G and best case, he wins a starting spot over Lemieux or Gates.
Notable Additions: N/A
Notable Losses: Jason Peters (Free Agency)
Projected Starters: LT. Jordan Mailata LG. Isaac Seumalo C. Jason Kelce RG. Brandon Brooks RT. Lane Johnson
Last Year: 2020 PFF Grades – Mailata (70.3), Seumalo (62.4), Kelce (69.6), Brooks (N/A), Johnson (71.9)
The Eagles were another offensive line decimated by injury. Both their starting LT Andre Dillard and RG Brooks were out for the season with injuries before a game was played and Johnson and Seumalo both played less than 10 games as well. Kelce was the only starter to play all 16 games and was the best player on this unit a year ago, although he had no business in the pro-bowl. Even Peters, who was brough back to play guard after Brooks got hurt and then moved to tackle when Dillard got hurt, got hurt and placed on IR himself. Despite the injuries, the Eagles still were a middle of the pack caliber offensive line thanks to some surprising play from backups. Mailata was a seventh-round pick in 2018 who finally got a shot to play at LT once Peters went down and was more than serviceable. Nate Herbig was also solid in relief being asked to play significant snaps at both guard spots. Given the number of injuries and lineup changes the Eagles had, it was no surprise that they finished as the fifth worse team in pressure rate. However, the Eagles calling card in 2020 up front was run blocking. They were tied for second averaging 3.1 YBC, finished third averaging 5.0 YPC, and were ninth in rushing YPG at 126.7.
The Eagles have some major holes on the roster, but the offensive line is not one of those areas. They proved last season that, even faced with poor injury luck, they could still be productive. If their injury luck is better in 2021 the Eagles could have a top 10 O-line. Everything starts with veteran C Kelce who has spent much of his career being one of the top centers in football. His play fell off some last season and age may be catching up to him, but he remains a productive run blocker who is one of the best second level run blockers in the league. In 2019 the Eagles may have had the best right sided offensive line duo in the NFL with Brooks and Johnson. Brooks is one of the strongest players in the NFL and was PFF’s highest rated guard that year while Johnson is one of the most athletic tackles and was their third ranked tackle. The Eagles offensive line was a force to be reckoned with and the trio from C to RT was the driving force of that. All three players are now over 30 and may longer be in their primes but none of them are so old that they cannot still play at a high level. While the left side of the line does not bolster the reputation of the right side it is far from bad. LT Mailata might be the most intriguing individual O-lineman to watch this season. He never played American football in high school or college and got invited to an international players combine off his play in Australia as a rugby player. Despite his lack of experience, he was impressive enough as a prospect to get drafted in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL draft. He got his first shot at real playing time last year and appears to be a lock at the position after winning the job over Hillard, who was a first round pick in 2019. He is 6’8, 365 with impressive athleticism for his size and should only get better as he continues to learn the basic nuances of the game. He could be a star in the NFL considering how raw he was. And Seumalo is returning at LG. Seumalo began his career as a better run blocker than pass blocker but the past two seasons he has been better in pass pro. He is a 27-year-old serviceable starter at guard and a team could do a lot worse than him as their worst starter.
Washington Football Team
Notable Additions: T. Charles Leno Jr. (Free Agency), Samuel Cosmi (2nd Round Pick)
Notable Losses: T. Morgan Moses (Free Agency)
Projected Starters: LT. Charles Leno Jr. LG. Wes Schweitzer C. Chase Roullier RG. Brandon Scherff RT. Samuel Cosmi
Last Year: 2020 PFF Grades – Leno Jr. (74.6), Schweitzer (69), Roullier (76.8), Scherff (84.1), Cosmi (N/A)
The Football Team snuck into the playoffs last season by winning a historically weak division, but they proved down the stretch and in a competitive game with the eventual Super Bowl champs on wildcard weekend they deserved to be there. While Washington’s D-line was seen as the driving force of their team last season, their O-line was quietly one of the best in the NFL last season. PFF rated them the sixth best O-line in 2020 and while that was a little high, there is no denying they were an effective group last season. The catalyst for this group was first team all-pro guard Scherff, who had another great season in 2020 leading the way as a brilliant blocker in both the run and pass game. Schweitzer might have been the weakest of the five at the other guard spot, but he would not have been on a lot of other teams as he was a solid starter for 16 games. Washington also benefited from good tackle play by veteran Morgan Moses, who was one of the best run blocking tackles in the NFL last season, and surprisingly Corneilus Lucas, an undrafted free agent that has bounced around the league since 2014, who had a career year and thrived in pass pro after taking over for the injured Geron Christian Sr. Roullier, a sixth round pick back in 2017, had a breakout season as well, emerging as one of the better centers in the NFL in 2020 which led to him signing a four-year $40.5 million extension. Washington finished 24th in pressure rate and tied for second with the Giants and Texans for most allowed sacks with 50. However, Washington’s team was a lot different in the first half of the season compared to the second as the poor play of Haskins at QB and Christian Sr. at LT were hurting this team.
Washington should have a solid O-line in 2021 but I would expect some drop-off from last season. Leno Jr. has been signed to take over at LT and is coming off a productive year. Despite a good season from Lucas at LT it appears 2nd round pick Cosmi will be the starter at RT and he will go to the bench as a swing tackle. The interior is the strength of this unit where all three starters return and should be set to pick up where they left off last season. Scherff should continue to be the best on this unit and maintain his high level of play at RG. Schweitzer is the starter at LG and though he is a solid starter, some feel the newly acquired Ereck Flowers could push him for the starting spot. Roullier was good last season but it was his only good year out of four, so it remains to be seen if he is a one-hit wonder or a legitimate player worthy of the 10 plus million per year he got in his new contract. If the interior is as good as they were last year, and Leno Jr. remains solid Washington should not have many problems on the O-line. Even if Cosmi struggles in his first season, Lucas is there and ready to replace him.